Foreword to new Jesus & Mo collection: Folie à Dieu

Where shall we look for the shrewdest, wittiest, most critically penetrating running commentary on the absurdities of contemporary religion – and even some absurdities of the organised opposition to today’s religion? To books? To blogs? To print journalism? Radio? TV? Websites? You’ll find good things, as well as plenty of bad, in all those media. But if I had to award the Palme d’Or for the most original and wittiest of all (amid stiff competition from such gems as Brian Dalton’s Mr Deity and the songs of Roy Zimmerman) I would have to nominate an unassuming strip cartoon from my home country: Jesus and Mo.

Folie à Dieu is the latest in a marvellous series of collections of Jesus and Mo cartoons. Every intelligent observer of contemporary disputation will enjoy it. The central protagonists, Jesus and Mo themselves, are drawn with such disarming affection, it would be hard to take offence – even given the voracious appetite for offence that the faithful uniquely indulge. Smile your way through this book, and you end up with a real liking for Jesus and Mo, a sympathy for their touchingly insecure tussles with each other, an empathy with their endearingly naïve struggle to justify their respective faiths in the teeth of harsh reality: the reality of science and critical reason, often given voice by the never seen character of the friendly but no-nonsense barmaid.

There is something pleasingly formulaic about the drawings. The gentle expressions of Jesus and Mo, and of Moses who occasionally enters to represent Judaism, never change. The backdrop to our heroes’ conversation shifts between only about four scenes: the park bench; the stage, where they introduce their double act with Mo improbably on guitar; the bar where they improbably drink Guinness together; the double bed which they even more improbably share (with not the slightest hint of sexual innuendo). The scenes recycle with a comforting familiarity, which gives added punch to the satire.

The satire’s breadth of coverage runs the gamut of contemporary controversy. I can think of no major issue in the whole absurd panoply of religious discourse which has escaped the penetrating eye of the anonymous Author of Jesus and Mo. Turning even-handedly to those who oppose contemporary religion, he accurately lampoons the bitchy infighting to which right-on progressives are unfortunately prone – shades of Monty Python and the Judean People’s Front. There’s topicality too: the presidential candidacy of a Mormon serves as the pretext for a cameo walk-on by the nineteenth-century charlatan Joseph Smith, his face completely covered by his preposterous magic hat.

But of all the victims of this splendid mockery, perhaps the most deeply wounded will be “sophisticated theologians”, those paragons of puffed-up vacuity, puffing out their soggy, infinitely yielding clouds of self-deceiving, apophatic obscurity. “Sophisticated theology” is oxymoronic because, in truth, there is nothing in theology to be sophisticated about, but it has pretensions that are interminably spun out in verbiage whose very length contrasts with the devastating economy with which the Jesus and Mo author slices it up. To do this so effectively requires a firm grasp not just of “theology” but of philosophy too. The laconic elegance with which our Author takes out the “theologians” could only be achieved by somebody who has taken the trouble to immerse himself thoroughly in their self-deluding claptrap. Where a professional philosopher might take 1000 words to puncture the balloon of apophatuous obscurantism, the J & M strip achieves the same result at a fraction of the length and no diminution of critical effect.

Gentle these cartoons may be, but their gentleness belies a satirical bite which is all the more effective in consequence. Folie à Dieu would make an ideal Christmas present. Especially for our religious friends.

Richard Dawkins


Przedmowa do nowego zbioru Jezus & Mo: Folie à Dieu

Autor tekstu: Richard Dawkins

Tłumaczenie: Małgorzata Koraszewska 

Gdzie mamy szukać najbystrzejszej, najdowcipniejszej, najbardziej krytycznie penetrującej żywej relacji o absurdach współczesnej religii — a także pewnych absurdach zorganizowanej opozycji wobec współczesnej religii? W książkach? W blogach? W prasie? Radio? Telewizji? Na stronach internetowych? Znajdziesz dobre rzeczy, jak również moc złych, we wszystkich tych mediach. Gdybym jednak miał przyznawać Złotą Palmę za najbardziej oryginalną i najdowcipniejszą z nich wszystkich (w ostrej konkurencji z takimi klejnotami jak Mr Deity Briana Daltona i piosenki Roya Zimmermana) nominowałbym do tej nagrody skromny komiks z mojego kraju ojczystego: „Jezus i Mo".

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